Arts in the Aspens: a unique twist on fine art

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By Sara Miller

Robert Frost wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.” In the case of artists Kevin Scofield and Christian Dore, good aspens make good neighbors. Or, inversely, good neighbors are brought together by good aspens. Most importantly, great art made by good neighbors looks even greater hanging on good aspens.

Let’s start at the beginning. In 2001, photographer Kevin Scofield and his wife, Pam, relocated to Morrison. By day, Scofield is the news operations manager at Fox 31 Denver. In his free time, Scofield is a fine art photographer who specializes in “adventurously manipulated photography.” More on that later ee

Several years later, painter Christian Dore and his wife, Kate, moved in next door to Scofield. Dore’s day job is working as an on-air designer for Starz Entertainment. His free time is spent creating vivid paintings whose abstract images and textured surfaces provide the viewer with a mind’s-eye view of the Colorado landscape.

Between the houses grew a stand of aspen trees. The trees were being choked out by knee-high brush and a dense thicket of shrubs. A lot of back-breaking hours and a few colorful words later, the Dores and the Scofields found themselves with a prime meeting ground.

The couples often get together in the reclaimed aspen grove to share an evening cocktail or the details of their latest adventures. It was on one of these languorous nights that Dore and Scofield created the idea for their latest fine art show, Arts in the Aspens.

“We’d never heard of anyone doing something like this. Living up here in the midst of all this beauty is so inspiring for both of us as artists. We figured, ‘What better way to display our work than to hang it in the trees?’ ” says Dore.

Scofield and Dore gathered up their latest works and hung a show — on the aspen trunks. The show’s tagline was a cryptic phrase: “Come and see what hangs in the undergrowth.” Admittedly, walking up the long driveway and into the aspen forest was a bit like falling down the rabbit hole. Sunlight streamed through the leaves, burnishing the otherworldly images of both artists.

Scofield describes his work as “adventurously manipulated.” Viewing his painstakingly altered digital photographs is like taking a trip through a parallel universe. “Deer Creek Saucers” is a stunning aerial photo of Deer Creek Canyon with three UFOs hovering in the foreground. “Stable Apparition” is a black-and-white photo of a rugged ranch hand whose head has transformed into the horse that he is bridling.

Scofield experiments not only with images but with artistic media as well. He often prints his images on canvas or watercolor papers, and even hand-paints some details with acrylics after printing. These techniques give the photographs additional texture and depth.

Artistically, Dore’s work is entirely different than Scofield’s, but his paintings also take the viewer on a journey of the mind. Born and raised in Kent, England, Dore’s professional career brought him to Colorado. His art has taken on a new life since he moved to Colorado. Heavily influenced by Native American imagery and what he sees in nature, Dore frequently uses complex symbolism within his paintings to tell a story.

For example, a litter of fox kits was born this spring in the valley across from Dore’s home. The oblong images in the corner of “Five” represent the young kits shaded by the aspens and evergreens of the surrounding forest.

In “Crow,” Doe uses a brilliant blue palette to capture the iridescent feathers hidden in a crow’s plumage. The bird’s wise eye stares at the viewer from within a flurry of abstract feathers and wings.

Before applying the paint, Dore textures each canvas with loose swaths of gesso, a paste-like substance made from plaster of Paris or chalk and glue. In some paintings, you’ll even see bits of window screen or hardware beneath the endless layers of paint. Each textural element draws you more deeply into the painting’s intricate narrative.

Whatever the subject, Scofield’s and Dore’s works are well thought out, as well as flawlessly executed. It’s obvious that many hours of thought and discussion are behind each work. It is only fitting that the aspen grove in which these two artists ponder their lives and work becomes a gallery in which it is displayed.

For more information on the artists or Arts in the Aspens, visit www.kevinscofield.com or www.christiandore.com.

Sara Miller, a freelance writer and a resident of Evergreen, lives with her husband, two children and a dog.